It seems every book ever published can be found on the Internet. But I still have fun walking into an independent book store and letting the books find me. While I was working on a recent story about Caliban Book Shop in Oakland, I stopped long enough to look through the store’s eclectic collection of some 30,000 used titles. In the Pittsburgh aisle, where I typically start my search, I found three books that remind me of why I love writing stories about my hometown.
When I first came to the Tribune-Review in 2001, I covered Pittsburgh city hall. Soon after I started, Managing Editor Jim Cuddy called me into his office and handed me a book: “Don’t Call Me Boss: David L. Lawrence, Pittsburgh’s Renaissance Mayor.” It’s not light reading and I might not have finished it — except that Jim said I had to read it. I’m glad I did. (Spoiler alert: Lawrence dies, in dramatic fashion.) The book gave me a solid grounding in Pittsburgh’s unique machine politics. I bought a copy of “Don’t Call Me Boss” for the Trib’s newest Grant Street writer, Aaron Auperlee.
“Homestead: The Glory and Tragedy of an American Steel Town” also ranks among my favorites. William Serrin was working as The New York Times’ labor and workplace correspondent when he quit the paper to write this book about the closure of the Homestead Works steel mill in 1986. My grandfather worked in a steel mill, and one of my first bylines, for the National Geographic Society’s defunct news service, appeared on a story I wrote about Homestead. When I came back to Pittsburgh, I read a library copy of “Homestead,” and it shaped my understanding of the region’s labor history. I have long wanted my own copy.
Finally, I wrote a children’s book scheduled to come out in August 2015 about Roberto Clemente, the Pirates’ iconic right fielder. David Maraniss wrote the quintessential biography, “Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero.” I didn’t have my own copy of the book. But now I do.